Space – Poetics and Otherwise

Throughout my reading two names seem to be ever present, Gaston Bachelard and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.  Here I will review Bachelard’s Poetics of Space and Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces, a favourite of Caroline’s.  Merleau-Ponty’s weighty tomb The Phenomenology of Perception must wait for another day.

Bachelard – Poetics of Space

Bachelard’s book, sub-titled The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Spaces is a gentle, hypnotic exploration of the minutiae of life, ceilings, walls, doors, corners, drawers, wardrobes and much more.  He explores through the medium of French poetry.  The work is very French.  The language is captivating, ‘It is as though the poem, through its exuberance, awakened new depths in us.’, the experience calming and grounding.  The world stops while the words float round and through you.  Your eyes are opened to the possibilities.  A book to revisit again and again.

Perec – Species of Spaces

There is a clue to Perec’s Species of Spaces, in the title.  Perec has a wry sense of humour and enjoys playing with words.  ‘Letter by letter, a text forms, affirms itself, is confirmed, is frozen, is fixed: a fairly strictly h










is set down on the blank sheet of paper…’

He plays with the concept of space ‘Space as reassurance.’

From page to bed to room to dwelling, ‘Moving in    cleaning checking  trying out  changing  fitting  signing  waiting  imagining…..’ why waste words when a single word can encapsulate the spirit of the time and place.

From dwelling to street to neighbourhood to town to countryside ‘To put down roots, to carve the place that will be yours out of space….’

The writing isn’t poetic but it is purposeful.  (Bachelard was a demanding work to follow.)  Perec brings the unacknowledged to our attention, our field of vision, our gaze and the arresting thereof.  The reader gains a glimpse into the meandering world that Perec seems to inhabit, a more expansive way to consider space, but a glimpse that proffers no clues to his troubled childhood.  But then, why should he?


Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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